LATROBE, PA. – In the real world, it likely would be labeled "one of those days." In the world of the NFL, what happened on Friday at Saint Vincent College is simply called "training camp," and everybody knows what that means.
The Steelers went through their third of four scheduled padless practices, and to say it was less than aesthetically pleasing is an understatement. Maybe that was because the offense never seemed to get into a flow, and maybe the offense never seemed to get into a flow because the defense had a great afternoon. There also were a couple of skirmishes, some mental mistakes, and one play had to be run again because the offense didn't have 11 guys on the field when it broke the huddle. There just seemed to be a general absence of crispness.
There were some individual flashes, but overall, it was one of those days that happen to every team in every training camp. Once the entirety of it is digested and examined on video, there will be some teaching moments, and ultimately there will be some value found in the time that was spent on the field. It just wasn't pretty.
"Nice weather today, but you know we don't complain about the weather because we don't have control over that," said Coach Mike Tomlin, whose team practiced in anything but nice weather the previous day. "It's about what we do, and the culture that we're working to create. The guys are working extremely hard and growing. There's some ebb and flow."
7-SHOTS SET A TONE
The first competitive period of the session was 7-shots, and the defense clinched a victory in the drill by winning the first four plays.
It began with Terrell Edmunds breaking up a pass for Zach Gentry from Mitch Trubisky. On the next snap, Trubisky was flushed out of the pocked and touched by T.J. Watt for a sack. On the third play, Trubisky ultimately threw the ball out of the back of the end zone after finding no one open. And the defense clinched on the next snap when Trubisky's throw for Kevin Rader was incomplete with Damontae Kazee in coverage.
Mason Rudolph brought the second group onto the field and threw a swing pass to a wide-open Jeremy McNichols who took advantage of an apparent busted coverage for an easy score. Rudolph then threw a short pass to Steven Sims, who caught the ball near the goal line and powered into the end zone. On Rudolph's third snap, he threw incomplete for Tyler Vaughns. Defense wins, 5-2.
IT WAS DOTSON'S TURN
The rotation at left guard continued, with Kevin Dotson working with the first unit. It seemed to confirm that Dotson and Kendrick Green will alternate with the first unit at left guard, because Dotson was the "starter" on Tuesday and Thursday, with Green "starting" on Wednesday.
The practice was marred by a couple of skirmishes, both of which involved defensive lineman Carlos Davis in some way. In the first, Davis squared off with Kendrick Green. In the second, which turned out to be the final play of the practice, OT Jake Dixon blocked OLB T.J. Moultry to the ground, but those two players separated and went their separate ways when Davis came up and pushed Dixon from behind. In a regular season game, that definitely would have been a penalty and possibly an ejection, but on Friday it was just a sloppy ending to a padless practice.
"You guys have been around me long enough to know I'm not going to answer questions about every skirmish that breaks out," said Tomlin in his post-practice media briefing. "We're working hard. We're competing our tails off. In an environment like this it's an opportunity to teach and learn, not only from a competitive standpoint, but from a professionalism standpoint, working to keep it professional. From time to time (skirmishes) happen. None of us like it, but it's a teaching opportunity. So that will be my response anytime you guys ask me about a skirmish."
SOME INDIVIDUAL HIGHLIGHTS
• On one play when Ahkello Witherspoon was covering George Pickens, and after Witherspoon made a diving attempt at an interception, Pickens ripped the ball away and turned upfield for a considerable gain.
• Moultry blew past OT Jordan Tucker for a "sack" during a third-down drill.
• Gentry made a very nice running catch over the middle down the field.
• When Kenny Pickett tried a quick sideline screen off the snap, DeMarvin Leal got high into the air and into the throwing lane to bat the ball down.
TOMLIN'S INJURY UPDATE
"Individually and collectively from a health standpoint, not a lot new to talk about. Just as an update on some guys I talked about yesterday, Pat Freiermuth's hamstring probably can be characterized as day-to-day. Levi Wallace is ill, and it could be characterized as day-to-day, and it's the status quo for the others. Chase Claypool wasn't able to finish (Friday's practice). He has a shoulder injury and is being evaluated. I don't know the severity of it. I'll let you know when I do."